Norwich – Broken Brains and Christ


7:30 pm - 8:45 pm


Trinity Meeting Place, Holy Trinity Church
Essex St., Norwich, NR2 2BJ
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What can we learn about faith from people with neurological diseases?

Revd Dr Alasdair Coles, Dept. of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Cambridge. Open Lecture and Discussion (organised by Science Faith Norfolk)

Monday 24th November 7.30 – 8.45 pm, Trinity Meeting Place, Holy Trinity Church, Essex St. Norwich NR2 2BJ

How does the make-up of our brain influence our attitude to religious belief and spiritual experience? The Revd Dr Alasdair Coles will provide some fascinating insights in a lecture to be given in Norwich on Monday 24th November.  Dr Coles is a clinical neurologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge; he is also an ordained priest in the Church of England.

He will describe some research on the neurological basis for religious experience based on observations of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy. For such people, “seizures” are often experienced as “mystical seizures”, which possess many of the features of a normal religious experience. So what is going on here?

Other people who have damage to the frontal lobes of the brain can experience a disruption of their normal beliefs and habits. They often show a diminished interest in religious beliefs. A purely scientific approach to people with neurological diseases could leave us with the impression that damage to the brain diminishes faith.

And yet many of Dr Cole’s patients have testified to increased dependence on their faith as their disease progressed. Religious faith can also provide meaning in a life of suffering. The reality of the Christian faith cannot be fully understood by neurological study, alone; it depends on the external truth of whether or not Christ lived, died and resurrected.

Clearly, people differ in their response to God; they may have different capacities to experience God and to understand religious belief and worship. But, Dr Coles argues that we are all equally loved by God and from that we can each gain dignity and value from our religious experience.

Dr Coles is currently engaged in a study of the spirituality of people with neurological disease in Cambridgeshire and is editing a book on religion in neurological disease. He is a world-leading researcher on the immunology and treatment of multiple sclerosis. . He is also a frequent lecturer at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. .

All are welcome to this open lecture organised by Science Faith Norfolk, a Norwich-based group that explores the interface between science and religious belief.  No booking is required. The meeting takes place on Monday 24th November from 7.30 – 8.45 pm at Trinity Meeting Place, Holy Trinity Church, Essex St. Norwich NR2 2BJ.

For further information, please contact the secretary, Professor Nick Brewin (07901 884114)

SFN Broken Brains and Christ 22 November